July 22, 2016

“FARMVILLE, N.C. – Farmville’s only courtroom has never played host to a felony trial. This week, the town’s 4,000 residents will watch a parade of jurors, lawyers, psychologists, parents and children converge on that courtroom. There, they will unfold what may be the largest child sexual abuse trial this country has ever seen: the trial of Robert F. Kelly Jr. of Edenton.

140120TwentyFive“The trial was moved to this one-blink community in Pitt County, 65 miles west of Edenton in Eastern North Carolina, because of pretrial publicity.

“But the spotlight will find Farmville, if not for the unprecedented number of sexual abuse indictments, then for the sordid nature of the charges. And if not for that, then for the impact the trial – expected to last three to four months – could have on future large-scale child-abuse prosecutions.

“Jury selection is scheduled to start today….”

– From “Witnesses, jurors, lawyers mass for sexual-abuse trial” by Knight-Ridder News Service in the Baltimore Sun (July 22, 1991)

In fact, the trial would last nine months, not three or four.  Although prosecutors won initial convictions of both Kelly and Dawn Wilson, for whatever reasons – surely including the eye-opening effects of Ofra Bikel’s “Innocence Lost” trilogy – the nation was spared “future large-scale child-abuse prosecutions.”